One month after the outbreak of the war in Lebanon, during which the Israeli army has established a security zone along the border and reached a depth of 12 kilometers into Lebanese territory, the IDF got a 'green light' Friday night to continue north up to the Litani River.
The order was given against the backdrop of a fervor of international diplomatic talks hoping to reach a ceasefire agreement as soon as Friday night.
The aim of the operation is to distance Hizbullah terror cells, especially those responsible for rocket attacks on Israeli, as far north as possible, thus widening the buffer zone along the border. IDF officials assessed this week that the completion of such a mission could take two months.
The IDF presented the cabinet with a timetable for its operations in the field, by which the operation would take a minimum of one week to reach the Litani River. Another four to six weeks would be required to defeat the Hizbullah operatives in the field.
It was still unclear whether the green light was time-limited and aimed pressuring Lebanon and Hizbullah into giving in to Israel's demands as part of a ceasefire agreement.
Another 15 km to Litani
At these very moments thousands of IDF soldiers, both the standing army and reservists, are operating in Lebanon against Hizbullah infrastructure. In the eastern sector of the border, soldiers are 1.5 km from the Litani and are overlooking it, although in the west troops remain roughly 15 km from the river. With that, in recent days forces began preparing the ground for the expansion of the operation and created access routes by which troops could advance deeper into the territory.
Officials in the Northern Command explained that there remained terrorist strongholds in the area south of the Litani that were firing rockets at Israel. "Any movement forward, even if it doesn't reach the Litani, will distance the rocket launchers (from the border)," a senior officer explained.
The shorter range 122-mm diameter rockets, that can reach some 24 km (about 15 miles), are the central threat against which the IDF is fighting. As forces push the terror cells further northward, the rockets will become less effective as they will become out of range of Israeli territory.
Another significance of expanding the operation would be the deployment of a great deal of forces into southern Lebanon. The IDF assessed that thousands of terrorists were still in south Lebanon – possibly up to 3,000 or even more, and the IDF could pay a heavy price in defeating them.